Warning: this is another long post. Apologies, but I have a lot to say on this.
Not sure if y’all heard, but the atheist blogger behind Unequally Yoked is now Catholic.
Here’s a whole bunch of stories and reactions for you to chew on, starting with Leah’s blog posts (after the fold, obviously):
This is my last post for the Patheos Atheist Portal
Doing Comment Triage [check back for updates]
Responding to the “What are you thinking?” comments
Thanks for your patience and persistence. Here are some charts.
Let me set some priorities
The (Epistemic) Floor is Made of Lava
A little about the queer stuff
And now that we got Leah’s POV, let’s get all the rest of the stories…
Gather.com – Atheist Leah Libresco Converts to Christianity
The Blaze – See This Atheist Blogger‘s Stunning Announcement That She’s Converting to Catholicism
Catholic News Agency – Author of atheist blog announces she will become Catholic
CNN – Prominent atheist blogger converts to Catholicism
Blag Hag –We’ve lost an atheist blogger…to Catholicism
Zinnia Jones – Congratulations, Leah Libresco
Camels with Hammers – On Atheist Blogger Leah Libresco’s Conversion to Catholicism and Her Atheistic Detractors
The Unincredible HALLQ – Religious conversions happen because of people’s personal relationships
Pharyngula – Joe the Plumber is simply not very bright
(For the record, PZ Myer’s post is less about Leah and more about Joe the Plumber and an incredibly stupid interview he gave. It’s the only one, however, in which PZ gives his opinion [however brief] about Leah’s reasons for her conversion.)
Atheist Universe – We Have Failed Leah L[i]bresco
That’s not everything there is on the intertubez, but it’s all my lazy self is will to dig up, so there! 😛
The rest of this post will be addressing Leah directly.
You’ll notice, Leah, on page 2 of the Atheist Universe post, that I commented. My comment was a tad harsh, I grant, and I’ll go ahead and apologize for the tone of it and for what could be construed as (but was not intended to be) a cheap shot. I hope you can forgive me.
But I am flabbergasted. Now, I have to tell you that I only started reading Unequally Yoked during the recent SSA Blogathon. Then I found out about your conversion, and decided to go back into the archives. I did read some of the posts you suggested to help explain your conversion.
So here are my thoughts:
I think you do a good job of explaining why you have come to believe in a higher power.
In fact, I really don’t care that you’re no longer an atheist. If this is where your journey of doubt and questioning has led you, then I’m happy for you. I’ve never had a hard time accepting that atheists can become theists. Of course, part of that is because of how I define the two terms:
Theism – The belief in a higher power or powers
Atheism – The lack thereof
So, of course, my definitions are very basic and rather vague, especially since my definition for theism includes all forms of deism and so on. I also have a blog about the differences between knowledge and belief that goes in to a little more detail (I also bring it up because I’ll be using it again later in this post). So I have no problem with the idea that an atheist can become a theist.
But I do have issues with certain leaps.
I think an example of this unbelievable leap even you could agree with is an atheist becoming a “Born-Again”, YEC, Conservative, Evangelical, Bigoted Christian. I really do tend to believe that such Christians who claim to have once been atheists (like VenomFangX on YouTube, for example) are lying, because of how they describe themselves as an atheist, and what they attribute to atheism.
Another leap I’m having trouble with is yours.
So I’m going to join the chorus screaming “why Catholicism?!?” I really do believe you could do so much better.
Have you, perchance, read the Catholic Catechism? I have. I’ve seen what’s in it. I don’t think it has a lot of good wisdom to live by. You should know that Catholics are expected to accept the entire Catechism without question. There was a time when questioning the Catechism could get you excommunicated (and earlier than that, killed). You should also know that Catholics are expected to view the Pope as infallible; his word is never to be questioned, for he is the vicar of Christ on Earth. I know this because half of my family is Catholic; I was baptized, given first communion, an even attended CCD. My grandpa is, in fact, a Deacon (for the record, the other half of my family is Jewish, and my dad is a Hazzan).
Here’s a link to the searches for “homosexuality” and “homosexual” within the Catechism. Would you please respond to those passages within the Catechism directly, especially in light of the fact that, as a Catholic, you are expected to consider these as unquestioned truths?
Also, as you are expected to see the Pope as infallible, could you comment directly on his comments on condoms, his comparison of atheists and Nazis, and his efforts (albeit largely pre-Pope) to aid in the cover-up of pedophile priests?
Also, out of curiosity, I’d like to know your thoughts on this Intelligence Squared debate.
In my comment at the Atheist Universe, I said the following:
In my experience, most people who go from atheism to theism usually start out at some vague, undefined Deism (see: Antony Flew). Most make it to Pandeism before stopping there. The ones who do keep going through the transition usually go through the gamut before finally making it to Yahweh, and most don’t get that far.
How in the hell do you go for atheism and Secular Humanism to frickin’ Catholicism?
IMO, Judaism would have been a better fit for her. Reform and liberal Conservative Judaism emphasize freethought, education, and doubt (why else do you think the amount of “secular Jews” grows daily?). She would have fit in quite nicely, especially with the Reform Jews. And she would have loved it, I think. And I’m not saying that as snark. Having read some of her atheist blogs over the past day or two, I honestly think her views fit better with Reform Judaism than any other sect of any other Abrahamic religion. There’s a reason Reform Judaism contains the most intelligent, skeptical Jews to ever exist. If she has to believe in Yahweh, I can’t think of a better sect of a better Abrahamic religion than that.
Could you comment on this?
And finally, I have two arguments against the existence of God I’d love to get your thoughts on. They are near the end of my blog on knowledge and belief, which I also linked to above, but I’ll quote them here:
So why am I an atheist, then? If I don’t know for sure, why do I not believe?
The main problem is infinite regress. Most believers ultimately come to this idea that the universe, and us, are too complex to have just popped into existence. They use this as evidence of a higher power.
The problem is, they are using what’s called a double standard. They do not apply this same line of thinking to God, when they should. And it should apply because any creator would have to be infinitely more complex than the universe and all within it in order to create it.
For starters, God has to be corporeal in order to interact with reality. Already, that’s complexity. God would also have to have the power to create. Even more complex. Then, God would have to have the knowledge of how to use that power and an understanding of what he/she/it was creating, which means imagination. This god also has to have the imagination to come up with, and the knowledge to understand, all the laws of nature and physics and the quantum world. And if we’re talking about Yahweh, it gets even worse, because he has to have the ability to interact with us on a daily basis, answering prayers and whatnot. But even if we’re just talking about the Pandeistic concept, the principle still stands: any god concept would have to be many orders of magnitude more complex than the universe and all within it in order to create it all.
So if the idea that we’re too complex to have happened by chanced is true, then the same must apply to our creator, which means our creator has to have a creator… the problem is, that would go on forever.
The other problem I have with the God Hypothesis is that the deity is always supreme. It created even time. But the problem with this is that time is not a finite property. If there is no time, then when did God create? Time is required for action. No time, no space. No space, no movement. No movement, no action. It becomes very clear that time cannot have been created, but has always existed. So there is at least one thing that was around before God. But see, without time, there is no space. Which means we now have two things that existed before God; both time and space. But then, what about matter? Matter is, of course, a form of energy. And you need both as a material in order to create universes, stars, planets, and life. But if there’s no matter or energy, then what did God use to create it?
And now we have time, space, matter, and energy all having to exist forever in order for there to be existence in the first place.
So space, time, matter, and energy have to have existed forever. Add that to the Problem of Complexity, as it were, and the entire God Hypothesis runs into some severe roadblocks. You end up with gods that are really nothing more than hyper-advanced aliens. I know that a tiny amount of people are fine with this, but most aren’t, especially considering what the word “god” implies.
To end, I actually struggle, like you, with morality. I tend to believe that morality is relative, and I argue constantly from that perspective. However, I do admit that there’s an arbitrariness of morality if it is relative that I am constantly struggling to square away. So I can appreciate your dilemma from that regard.
However, I simply can’t believe that morality is objective because of humanity. No matter what, it seems quite obvious that morality is, indeed, relative. Different cultures have different morals, as do different time periods. When you study both human history and culture, you realize that morality is a zeitgeist. Things that were once considered moral are no longer so today, things considered moral today were not considered so once upon a time, and even in the present, different people have different ideas of what is and what is not moral (consider the current fight over abortion: it is certainly a moral issue from the point-of-view of those who are “pro-life”).
Hitler is a popular argument against moral relativity, but I always point out that Hitler himself did not believe he was evil. He truly believed that what he was doing was moral, good, and right. He truly believed that he what he was doing was best for Germany and the world. He was not some comic book villain who did it all “in the name of evil.”
The only reason I think Hitler was wrong is because of my belief that you have the right to do whatever you want as long as you do not violate the right of somebody else to do whatever they want. Hitler violated that very right of nearly 13 million people. I don’t believe he should have. But if I could argue with Hitler today, I know he’d disagree with me.
And that is the point of moral relativism. I agree that it is not emotionally satisfying, and so I understand why people would judge such a position by saying “you can’t judge if something is good or bad”. I say we can because of evolution, because I do think the fact that we evolved to be a social species, and thus we evolved to be altruistic, and we culturally developed our morals from that basic altruistic instinct, is a good enough explanation of the origins of morality that it satisfies my problems with the idea of moral relativity.
All of that is simply to say that I understand where your coming from. It is your jump to Catholicism, an institution that I truly believe is evil because of how it has in the past, and continues to, violate the rights of others to do whatever they want, that I simply do not understand.
I apologize for the length of this blog, but I had a lot to say. I wish you luck in your journey, Leah, wherever it may take you.